The Colombo Test was meant to be an occasion of celebration for, arguably, Pakistan’s greatest batsman in the longest format. Younus Khan’s 100th Test should have ideally showcased his mental prowess, skills with the willow and incredible levels of endurance, but unfortunately an ideal world doesn’t exist in reality. On the very first day, Younus’s phenomenal achievement — fifth Pakistani to earn 100 caps —was quickly confined to the backburner as the age-old fragility of the batting line-up Younus has held together for years came to haunt him and his team.
Younus himself was all at sea against the innocuous Sri Lankan seamers. Perhaps, for once, the great from Mardan succumbed to the relentless demands and pressure that surround players of such lofty standards. In a desperate attempt at asserting his presence, Younus gifted his wicket to Dhammika Prasad through a fatal misjudgement of length in the first innings. Fast-forward to the fourth day and Pakistan’s second innings, Younus’s stint in the middle was again full of torment, but the veteran managed to dig in and reached 40 off 66 balls. The 67th though had his number; an ungainly glide towards the slips was safely pouched by wicket-keeper Dinesh Chandimal. In his trademark way, Younus quickly headed back to the dressing room, head bowed perhaps, in admonishment of a missed opportunity of another stonewalling second innings effort.
Pakistan limped to a heavy defeat the next day; the usually beaming Younus was remorseful and subdued as the hosts hunted down the 153-run target with meticulous ease. One has a feeling that Younus’s mind was already on the now decisive Pallekele Test that starts today; the man with the 100 caps still has some scores to settle; in four innings in Sri Lanka, he hasn’t crossed 50 even once — surely there can’t be more failures.
A modern batting great
In a largely chequered cricket history Pakistan has produced some breathtaking cricket talent, players with unorthodox batting and bowling styles have always been embraced with open arms; flamboyance and bluster outdoes technical astuteness with bat or ball.
Younus though is an anomaly; his batting style is hardly a sight for sore eyes, his stroke play lacks flair and style. Rarely does a Younus hook or cut match the finesse of Inzamam or Yousuf; on the other hand, his tenacity entrances even the street-fighter Javed Miandad. Statistically, Younus is well ahead of the three batting maestros. The 37-year-old has the most centuries for a Pakistan batsman, the best average, the best second innings average, centuries against all opponents, and above all, Younus has only played a small fraction of his 100 Tests at home.
Miandad played as many as 60 of his 124 Tests at home, Inzamam featured in 49 home Tests in a 120-Test span, while 32 out of Yousuf’s 90 games were played in Pakistan. Out of Younus’s 100 Tests, the right-hander has earned mere 19 home caps! One wonders what Younus would have achieved if he would have played the ‘neutral’ Tests in the comforting environs of Karachi or Lahore. In his last innings at home, Younus amassed a staggering 313 — his highest Test score. Despite the adversity, the record in 22 neutral games in the UAE is awe-inspiring— average of 54.86 with nine centuries. Younus now needs 192 runs to leapfrog Miandad as the greatest Pakistan Test run-getter. The stunning environs of Pallekele might inspire Younus. After all, he is a man of nature with a passion for fishing. The jury is still out on acknowledging him as Pakistan’s greatest. The pundits who are never short of accolades for Sachin Tendulkar or Ricky Ponting are only now beginning to realise that Younus indeed has rubbed shoulders with the ‘batting gods’.
Pakistan can still squeeze at least two more years of Test cricket out of Younus. His work ethic and resolve are his most admirable traits. The never-ending upheavals and the Colombo-like rare failures can’t quench the thirst for runs. Go well Younus.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2015.
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